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Exploiting the Fourth Wall

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Some characters break the Fourth Wall just to acknowledge their universe's fictional nature and discuss the improbability of its laws. Some do it to have a chat with their creator or the audience, or even threaten them.

But others do it for a practical reason: they use elements from beyond the Fourth Wall to help them achieve some kind of in-universe goal. This is a supertrope to Reading Ahead in the Script, when they cheat to see what the plot has in store for them, and Ninja Prop, when elements of the medium itself are brought into the story.

A subtrope of Medium Awareness and Breaking the Fourth Wall. When this is initiated by the author, narrator, or audience instead of the characters, it comes From Beyond the Fourth Wall. See also No Fourth Wall, Fourth-Wall Observer.



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    Comic Books 
  • In one Deadpool comic, Deadpool beats up the writer of his own comic book in order to get the location of the person he was tracking down.
  • In one issue of She-Hulk, She-Hulk escapes from a trap by ripping a hole in the page, leading the other characters across two pages of ads, and ripping back into the story at a later point in the story.
  • An Italian Disney comic features a scene where Mickey and Goofy have to cross a lava river. How they manage to do it? Goofy complains to the artist that he is making their quest too hard and he draws a bridge for them.
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool always had shades of this by having the knowledge of a real world comic-book nerd fairly up to date on the Marvel Universe up until Secret Wars (2015), but then she gained full on Reality Warper levels by way of Enlightenment Superpower. Access to gutter space (space between, and behind panels and pages), all the Ninja Prop, Perspective Magic tricks etc., in theory whatever the heck she can think of that you can pull off by playing with the comic-book layout basically. She even ripped the page to get on the other side once.

    Fan Works 
  • In We Are All Pokémon Trainers, there are a few Pokémon aware that it is a story, and use it to break WAAPT's already very fragile fourth wall:
    • Anom's Volcarona is meta aware and uses that ability to avoid getting Ret Gone when Cyrus resets the timeline during the AU Arc.
    • Gino, Lina's Salamence, uses the ability for multiversal travel, and in one case to free Team Umbra from a void between worlds during Glitchstuck Wars.
  • Scootertrix the Abridged: Pinkie Pie can create Plot Holes and invoke Offscreen Teleportation — she's basically a minor Reality Warper whenever the camera isn't on her. In Episode 7, she uses this to get herself and Fluttershy down from the mountain, and in Episode 16, she uses it to get movie tickets for herself and all her friends, even thought the movie was completely sold out.
    Pinkie Pie: Anything's possible with editing.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh presents the stories like they're being read from a book. When Tigger gets stuck at the top of a tree, the Interactive Narrator gets him down by turning the book sideways so Tigger can stand on the text, then tilting the book so Tigger can slide down to the ground.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Monkees: In one episode, when the boys are in a seemingly impossible to escape situation, Micky exits the set and goes to the writers' room where he gets them to write their escape.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Nancy: This strip has Nancy try to sneak some cookies by tossing the jar to the next panel, where she catches it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Guise in Sentinels of the Multiverse, being partly inspired by Deadpool, has a card where he clobbers an enemy with the card's keyword. One of his variants, Completionist Guise, has a power that lets you go back into the game box and swap out an active hero for his variant.

  • Peter Pan: When Tinkerbell is injured, Peter and company save her life by getting the audience to chant "I do believe in fairies, I do, I do".

    Video Games 
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 3: If Deadpool is attacked during his Level 3 Hyper combo, he will bludgeon his opponent with his Health Bar and Hyper Meter.
  • In EarthBound, Ness and his friends defeat Giygas by getting the entire world to unite in a prayer for his defeat. Then Paula asks you, the player, to join in. Effectively, you defeat Giygas just by wanting him dead badly enough.
  • In Bravely Default and Bravely Second, You, the player, are a tangible force within the game's world. The Big Bads of both games directly acknowledge your involvement with the party. This is taken to the furthest possible extreme in the second game, when you use the New Game+ to derail the villain's plot completely.
  • In Fairy Fencer F, your player character Fang can talk with an NPC labeled by the game as a "bandit." When he calls him out as a bandit, he asks how he knew, thinking maybe he has some sort of inside information. Fang says that he read it on the screen.
  • Let’s just say this happens a lot in Undertale.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club! utilizes this concept quite a bit, primarily through Monika. At various points, she gradually reprograms the game to be more to her liking, mainly attempting to break out of her role as The Not-Love Interest. One particular point has her present a poem to the player that is just a glitched display of red and green boxes, followed by her apologizing for it and awkwardly having the game proceed to the poem-sharing gameplay. If this scene is viewed in a fullscreen display, the glitched poem would seemingly crash the computer until Monika reappears to put everything back on track. The game's developer deliberately avoided looking at any media related to the aforementioned Undertale during development due to the similar use of metafictional concepts.

    Web Comics 

    Web Animation 
  • Animator vs. Animation: These videos are based on this trope. The Animation (a stick figure) interacts with everything from various applications' interfaces to icons on the desktop to system menus, trying to destroy the Animator (the mouse cursor).
  • In Screw Attack's Death Battle between Deadpool and Pinkie Pie, Deadpool, in response to Pinkie pie summoning a horde of clones, reaches outside the video panel, grabs the thumbs up/down meter, and uses it as a lightsaber to fend off the clones. Pinkie Pie's original, desperate to find some means of defending herself, grabs an ad that conveniently appears and blocks Deadpool's strike... causing Deadpool to suddenly stop the fight to ask, "You see those things too?"

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes does this several times.
    • in "Duck Amuck", a mysterious animator uses the Fourth Wall to torment Daffy Duck. At the end of the episode we discover the animator is Bugs Bunny.
    • This was repeated in "Rabbit Rampage" with Bugs Bunny as the victim and Elmer Fudd as the sadistic animator.
    • In another Bugs Bunny short, Bugs defeats the bad guy by breaking the film in order to escape a trap.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In one episode Mojo Jojo kidnapped The Narrator so that he could narrate the episode instead, his narration forcing the Powerpuff Girls to do everything he described them doing.
  • The Pink Panther's Inspector Clouseau segments have an episode where the inspector told the artist to comply with law and put the criminal he was chasing behind bars.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, this happens in-universe when the Nega-Chin, a villain from a comic book, goes to the writer's house and fights him to get him to write a story where he wins.
  • In the Danger Mouse episode "Once Upon A Time Slip," a microphone malfunction gives the Lemony Narrator near-absolute control of the story. He decides he'd rather tell a story about Robin Hood, so D.M. and co. wind up acting out a medieval costume epic until D.M. can trick the Narrator into putting things back to normal.
  • As part of its Fake Interactivity, on Blue's Clues, Steve or Joe would sometimes pass an object back or forth between them and the viewer(s).


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